In recent weeks, I’ve seen calls from several sources suggesting that Microsoft stop, take a breath, and seriously review their update process.
I agree. This madness must end. Or at least slow down.
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- Most people should still take updates, backing up first.
- Taking updates feels akin to Russian Roulette.
- Microsoft can do better, and I offer specific actions they can and should take.
This isn’t about hate
I’ve always heard from the Microsoft-hate crowd; they’re not new. They’re the folks for which Microsoft can do absolutely nothing right. Even the most minor glitch is seen as some kind of exposé of Microsoft’s evil intent.
That’s not me. It never has been. I’m no Microsoft hater.
Windows — yes, even Windows 10 — is an awesome operating system. It’s an amazing feat of engineering. In the last decades, Windows’ ubiquity and usability paved the way for a myriad of things we now take for granted. Had Windows not existed, some other solution would likely have done so, but the fact remains Windows happened, and it’s Windows that brought technology to where we are today.
I still believe that most people should take all updates, albeit with extra attention to backing up first. Windows Update usually works. By “usually”, I mean that for millions upon millions of machines, Windows Update works without major issue. These are the machines used by people we don’t hear from because they’re busy getting stuff done. Their updates are, for the most part, a non-issue.
But then there’s the unlucky few.
Windows Update as Russian Roulette
Let’s assume that one hundredth of one percent (0.01%) of Windows 10 installations have a significant problem. That seems like a tiny number, right? (I don’t know what the real number is; Microsoft isn’t saying. If anything, I suspect my assumption is low.)
Let’s also assume that there are two billion desktop computers currently in use in the world1. Let’s assume half of them run Windows, and half of those run Windows 102, meaning about 500,000,000 machines. If our assumption of 0.01% is even close to correct, that means 50,000 computers may experience a problem due to Windows Update. That’s still way too many.
Particularly since updates are forced, it’s a little like playing Russian Roulette. There’s no real predicting whether or not the barrel is loaded when you’re forced to pull the Windows Update trigger — or more correctly, when the gun is pointed at your machine and the trigger is pulled on your behalf.
Even if your chances of experiencing a problem are one in ten thousand (aka 0.01%), it’s certainly enough to make people nervous.
Microsoft, you can do better.
Microsoft, you must do better.
In my opinion, this is what “better” looks like:
Return control to the user — all control, to all users. Allow all editions of Windows to defer any and all updates indefinitely. Honestly, it’s the height of hubris for an operating system to force updates to begin with. There are hundreds of reasons why an individual machine might not or should not take updates for an extended period of time. Stability matters, and right now, given the risk that updates appear to present, stability matters more than security (the most quoted reason for automatic, unstoppable updates).
Let all computer users choose if, when, and which updates should be installed. Period. Sure, make the default action ‘take everything automatically’, but give everyone an out. You don’t know their reasons, you can’t know their reasons, and there are valid reasons. Encourage, educate, and build a track record of trust. But never force.
Stop feature updates completely. Focus on stability and security, at least until you improve your track record. Many — myself included — feel too many things are being updated too quickly. All the moving parts being updated contribute to the recent rash of Windows Update horror stories. Windows is an incredibly complex beast, and one of the costs of that complexity is speed: you cannot, and should not, keep changing it as frequently and as dramatically as you seem to want to.
Focus on quality. Everyone says they focus on quality, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The last major Windows updates have had more quality issues than is reasonable or tolerable. Deleting people’s data is simply unacceptable. That type of behavior was what we called a “showstopper” back in the day — yet it shipped anyway. Someone missed something incredibly important.
Apologize, and mean it. Admit your mistakes. Promise to do better, and then do better. Microsoft, you need to regain and re-earn our trust. As I said above, what matters most is the result, but it’s time to be open and honest and take responsibility for the mistakes made along the way.
Microsoft, you can do better. From individuals to families, organizations, and corporations, we need you to do better.
We shouldn’t be forced to play games.
Especially not Russian Roulette.